Wetsuits are an expensive item of surf gear but an absolute necessity for many of us in colder waters.
For many regular wetsuit users, they can cause something of a love-hate relationship, where you can’t surf without them but keeping them in good condition and making sure they last a long time is a task in itself.
Given the cost of wetsuits for surfing, you’ll definitely want to do everything you can to keep it in top condition, and also to prevent it from smelling!
With this in mind, here’s the absolute best way to clean a wetsuit:
Dunk your suit in a bucket of mild water, wash off the sand and make sure you submerge it fully, with a good few dunks. Open up the neck to get water inside it and make sure it’s wetting both sides of the suit. Use a safe, mild cleaning product to keep it from smelling – more on this below!
Bucket for Wetsuit Washing
To help you wash your wetsuit properly, a good bucket or tub is really helpful to make it easier and save water.
For this, I strongly recommend a medium-sized, sturdy and reliable Tubturg from Amazon These will usually be anywhere from 20-40 liters in volume, which is absolutely fine for washing your wetsuit.
You don’t need to fill these up but they will give you plenty of space for fully submerging and dunking your wetsuit to clean the sand and salt off with ease.
These tubtrugs also double up nicely as a great way to carry your wetsuit and surf gear to and from the beach, something which I often use myself!
My tubtrubg holds all my winter wetsuit gear, towel, drinks, wax and more so it’s a great addition.
If you don’t want to buy a tubtrug, you could also use a dry bag or just a standard bucket as an alternative.
Note that a dry bag will obviously be water tight but harder to manage the washing action as you will have to be sure to keep it perfectly upright throughout!
The video below shows you the basics of washing a wetsuit, although I would recommend going for a bigger bucket, just like the Tubtrugs mentioned above.
Water Temperature for Washing a Wetsuit In
One common mistake to avoid is to wash your wetsuit in water run directly from the cold tap. Although this is the default option for most (myself included), this cold water can feel icy when you try washing your wetsuit in it.
Although this won’t do your wetsuit any harm, it will leave your hands in pain and make you hurry and rush the job of washing your wetsuit, which you absolutely don’t want to do!
That burning feeling of ice cold water is something you can do without as you might have already had enough of it from surfing in cold water!
To avoid this, simply add a small amount of hot water when running your water to wash your wetsuit. Having tepid or lukewarm water will mean that you can focus on washing your suit properly, getting it fully wet and clean.
Also remember that using water that is too hot will damage the suit but tepid or lukewarm water should be perfect. Just go with water that feels mild to the touch, rather than exact temperature. If it stings your hand when putting it in, it’s probably too hot for the suit or too cold for you to wash your suit in it thoroughly!
Use a Showerhead to Wash the Inside Bits and Sand
To get the salt and sand off your wetsuit, putting a shower head into the suit will help to get off any lingering bits from the surface of your suit.
Salt will gradually break down your wetsuit over time, so you’ll definitely want to get it off as best you can, for which a good, powerful blast from the shower works wonders.
This should come after dunking it in a bucket, so that you can be sure to get the best of both parts of the washing process.
Bonus Wetsuit Cleaning Tips
What is the best wetsuit cleaner?
There are some dedicated wetsuit shampoos that you can buy but, to be honest, I’ve found that a drop of ‘baby shampoo’ is soft enough not to hurt the neoprene while also helps to clean your suit and removes odors. However, be sure to check your wetsuit’s warranty before doing this.
This is because some manufacturers will have different ideas to mine, so double check first!
Hang your drying wetsuit properly
After you’ve washed it thoroughly, hanging your wetsuit in a proper place to get it dry will help the cleaning process.
This is because, just as with clothing, if you leave it damp for a while, it will soon start smell and have a musty scent, which you really don’t want!
Check out my super-in-depth article on the fastest way to dry your wetsuit in winter to speed this up and beat the stink!
Remember to do the same for all wetsuit accessories like booties, gloves and hood to avoid smells with them, too, with booties being a particularly tricky ‘customer’ and the most likely of all to smell!
How often should you wash your wetsuit?
Ideally, you should wash your suit after every session, but, if not possible to wash it every time, at least be sure to do it every other session. This is because the drying salt will have a damaging effect on your suit.
If you don’t want to buy a new suit often, make sure to get the suit properly cleaned and washed as often as possible!
Also be sure to check that your suit is completely dry before storage for longer periods or if you are not planning on surfing again within a few days.
This is because any moisture or damp left in your wetsuit will again result in a horrible smell that you really don’t need!
After Washing: Getting Your Wetsuit to Dry
In terms of getting your wetsuit to dry, be sure to hang it out on a clothes rack and not a coat hanger.
The clothes rack provides a wide, flat surface that reduces the strain or pressure on any one part of your wetsuit. This is different from a coat hanger, which means all the weight is on the shoulders of the suit, which I’ve found leads to tears and stretches in the shoulders over time, meaning a cold and largely useless wetsuit!
Remember: only use a coat hanger for your wetsuit if you have no other option. And even then it should only be a wide one, the kind you get for an expensive work suit. You can also hang your suit on a coat hanger when it is nearly dry because it then weighs less with less water in it.
How do you clean a stinky wetsuit? Dunk it in a bucket of mild water with a few drops of baby shampoo or, if you have it, wetsuit shampoo. This will help to get rid of the odor but you might find that using it first before washing it will also help.
Can you put a wetsuit in the washing machine? No, absolutely not because the spinning of the washing machine will mean that your wetsuit seams will come apart. Even if this doesn’t happen the first time, the seams will be permanently weaker. It will also void your warranty.
For this reason, follow the steps outline in my dedicated post on how to dry your wetsuit fastest to avoid any issues!
How do I stop my neoprene from smelling? Make sure to wash your wetsuit after every use, again, ideally with wetsuit shampoo or just a drop of baby shampoo. From there, hang your wetsuit out to dry and make sure it is bone-dry before packing it away to avoid any more smells.